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The Injury and Violence Prevention Program of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging (OSA) are encouraging residents to observe Falls Prevention Awareness Day on September 23.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for Americans age 65 and older. Nationally, more than 18,000 older Americans die every year because of a fall, and that rate has increased dramatically over the last ten years.

“The good news is that through identification and reduction of risk factors, falls are preventable,” said Nick Lyon, director of the MDCH. “By raising awareness and encouraging preventative measures to protect against falls, we can help keep older adults safe in Michigan.”

Fall-related deaths are on the rise, with the numbers reflecting a 118 percent rate increase from 1999 to 2012. In 2012, falls resulted in 740 deaths for people age 65 and older and 14,425 hospitalizations due to fall-related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls among older adults cost the U.S. health care system upwards of $30 billion annually.

“Falls are not a normal part of aging and most of them can be prevented by taking a few simple steps,” said OSA Director Kari Sederburg. “I encourage everyone to use today as a reminder to spread the word about this important issue and learn more about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from falls.”

Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population. Experts recommend a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training, and flexibility components; consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment; having medications reviewed periodically; getting eyes and hearing checked annually; and making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.

Aging organizations across the United States have programs like Matter of Balance and Tai Chi which help older adults gain strength, improve balance, and increase confidence to help them stay healthy and preserve their independence. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to connect with your local Area Agency on Aging to learn more about these programs.

Visit the MDCH website at www.michigan.gov/injuryprevention for more information about fall prevention and intervention. For additional resources regarding falls, visit the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html, or the National Council on Aging website http://www.ncoa.org/.